It became clear that Barrichello would have to settle for fourth, but it was a superb result, and as he reeled off the final laps it all seemed a foregone conclusion until the blue Sasol car pulled off on its 71st tour. “It was all going really well and then the fuel pressure light came on and the next lap the car just stopped,” he reported, with the air of a driver who is confident of great things to come. Jordan himself was too choked to speak.
The Silverstone team’s misfortune promoted the third star, Herbert, to fourth for Lotus. At the start, however, he’d had a scare. Revving the 107B in first he had felt it sink down on to its helper springs, as if its active ride had failed. “I looked up and saw the red lights were on, then when I got into second gear everything seemed to sort itself out.”
His car would drag its tail for much of the race, but it was his performance behind the wheel that was so notable. From 11th on the grid he was eighth for the first 10 laps before, just as he did in Brazil, taking the early decision to opt for slicks. Thereafter the Lotus handled better, and he resolved to stay out as long as he dared. Thus, even more than Senna, he fought the track all afternoon.
Prost leading Williams team-mate Damon Hill
“The way things were for us today. I thought the best thing that I could do was to stay out and go as carefully as I could,” he said modestly. “I just didn’t want to risk time coming in, and maybe having a bad stop, although in Brazil our stops had been the best. In any case, unless it was really wet there wasn’t much difference between slicks and wets, and the wets wouldn’t have lasted long during the dry periods. I just kept going and it all paid off.”
Team director Peter Collins summarised it better: “We kept our nerve when many others were panicked into making too many tyre stops. Today Johnny’s drive was just simply stunning; the car wasn’t a match for his ability.”
There was much to cheer elsewhere in a race that defied the awful weather, for Derek Warwick and Riccardo Patrese fought in company with the Inter-Minardi Challenge right up until the closing stages. Sadly, the Footwork driver’s tenancy of an aggressive sixth place in the new FA14 was terminated as he went into his 67th lap, thanks to driveshaft failure (thankfully not with the dire consequences such a failure had had on the car’s debut test at Silverstone). Like Johnny, Delboy had driven beautifully on slicks after his initial change. That left Riccardo to scoop what became fifth with Barrichello’s demise, the Italian driving a “conservative” – read uncommitted – race to be sure of a finish after his disasters so far this year. In his wake, Fabrizio Barbazza was delighted to score his first World Championship point after fighting tooth and nail with team-mate Fittipaldi, Warwick, Patrese and Blundell. “Nothing is a problem today,” he beamed, “except this.” He pointed to a broken endplate on his left front wing. “This broke maybe at the start, and I had big understeer all through. But sixth? I am very happy!” Fittipaldi wasn’t so chuffed. Both had spun in the closing stages, Barbazza after clipping the kerb at Old Hairpin, Christian after Alessandro Zanardi had spun his difficult Lotus on to the grass and then rejoined immediately in front of him. Fittipaldi claimed that had obliged him to spin in avoidance. Without that he might have taken that final point.
Senna in the McLaren on the way to one of his most memorable victories
Zanardi claimed an unhappy eighth, unsettled by a handling imbalance in his 107B which, like Herbert’s, had a ride height problem, Comas was ninth, unhappy that his initial set of wets had mismatched pressures, and Barrichello was classified 10th ahead of Alboreto’s sluggish but reliable Lola-Ferrari. Joining Alesi in retirement, Berger succumbed to failure of an active suspension actuator after feeling fluid leaking on to his legs right from the start. He had been chasing Schumacher for seventh until the problem became acute. Lehto, too, deserved much better fortune. The ever-cheerful Finn had to switch to the spare Sauber after the warm-up lap, when his own developed a problem in its ignition switch. The spare C12 was set for the taller Wendlinger, and after starting from the pit lane and gambling on slicks he reluctantly came in to retire after 13 laps. “The steering wheel and pedals were all set for Karl,” he explained, “so it was almost impossible to drive the car properly.”
When the rout was over, Prost was sombre as he outlined his race as sat and Senna rolled his eyes heavenward. “I had a bad moment from the start when the car went into neutral and I could not get a gear in the third or fourth corner. Then I had another problem at the end of the straight, so that I went a bit wide in neutral again. On the straight after that, Ayrton overtook me. From then on I had problems almost all the time. It was impossible to brake late because I was locking the rear wheels; when you called for a gear it would not come immediately, and under retardation it would lock the rears.
“Anyway, the car was not bad at the beginning, and after I got used to it I was being careful. But then I had more and more problems with the gearbox. I stalled the engine at one stop…
“I made some good decisions at the beginning, to stop at the right time. But then, as soon as I put the slicks on, the car was absolutely undriveable. I was braking later and changing gear faster, and I could not get the gears. Also, as with Damon, the tyre pressures were not correct and we took something off the wing, which was not the correct decision. . .”
Senna, listening to all this, responded: “Perhaps you should change cars with me…”
Prost’s afternoon had been rendered worse when his clutch problem caused him to stall on his lap 48 stop, and then again on lap 53 when he came in to have what he thought was a punctured left rear replaced. Actually, the team’s slicks had been pressured on the assumption that it would stay dry, and that had created an apparent imbalance as they were too low for the conditions. On the positive side, though, he went unpenalised for passing Warwick under the yellows in the Esses during Brundle’s incident.
Senna celebrates his win in the wet
Said a team member later: “It was pretty grisly for us. After qualifying first and second, distant second and third places didn’t make us too happy. The basic problem is that at low speeds the re-engagement of drive after downchanges can be a bit brutal, and locks the rear axle. But it only does so briefly…” For Senna on this great day, little was wrong. Like Prost, he had also suffered one bad stop, on lap 34, when a right rear wheelnut cross-threaded and lost him the lead again. Victory just made it even better that 10 years earlier the Leicestershire track had been the venue of his first ever run in an F1 car. . . ironically enough, a Williams. “I am over the moon,” he declared, a trifle unoriginally. “This was a tremendous race because the conditions were unpredictable and unknown. On slicks on a circuit like this you almost have to commit yourself before you get the feeling of the car in the corner. If you try too hard, you are off. If you go too easy, they come and get you.”